Simon Hart (a.k.a. BigCharlie Poet) and I have taken on a challenge. We thought we’d each try writing a piece inspired by the same picture and see what we came up with. We’ve had a week or so to work on something; Simon’s poem is called ‘Empty’, and my story is called ‘If All We Ever See Is Cathedrals’ (which I pinched from a Paddy Garrigan lyric I can’t stop thinking about). Paddy sort of makes an appearance in the story, too. Sorry, Paddy.
This is the picture, which I found on Pinterest:
And here’s Simon’s response to it:
by BigCharlie Poet
He stands alone inside the ruined shell
Watches the water flow in a place that once, he thinks, housed God as well
And he tries to convince himself that he is at peace
That he is free from everything, has achieved a release
From the torments of his daily life
The soul destroying work, the unfeeling distant wife
But there is a feeling he cannot seem to shake
Like someone is encouraging him to return to a state
Of conciousness, where he needs to open his eyes
Where he needs to breathe again, before his body dies
So he dulls the uncomfortable feeling by watching the water flow
Sees the plants as they find a way to grow
Through the abandoned cathedrals fallen floor
“Sam! Wake up…” this time he’s sure
That the prescence is more than just his mind
Is positive that someone is trying to find
A way to break into this place of calm
Where God heard raised to the Heavens many different psalms
“Open your eyes for me Sam!” he hears the voice again
And as he hears it, he notices the light shine through the pane
Of glass flash so brightly that it causes him to stumble
“C’mon Sam! Open those eyes” the voice now a calm but insistent rumble
The next flash of light brings a jolt to his chest
He sees briefly a world he thought he had left
He tries to return to where the calm water is flowing
But with each passing second he knows he is going
Back to a place he can’t seem to escape
He wakes to the question “Sam, what did you take?
What did you take, Sam? I need you to say,
Was it pills that made you this way?
If it was pills, can you give me a nod?”
And as his head moves he thinks, “why not this time, God?”
And here’s my response:
If All We Ever See Is Cathedrals
by Simon Sylvester
It was no more than a hairline, running between two tiles, but as the year progressed, the fracture spread into a delta and ran between the squares of the mosaic. Father Garrigan glared, then called in builders. They lifted the mosaic for restoration, and discovered a network of cracks hidden beneath the rotten grout. Upon closer examination, damage was found all over the cathedral. Uneven lines formed between the huge, half-ton coins that split the annex from the nave. By the end of that autumn, it became plain that the pillars were subsiding.
The Father stood in his cathedral, framed by the huge window arches. Surveyors and scaffolders scurried around him, making ruin of the House of the Lord. The cathedral was closed for a fortnight, and then for six months – and then for a year. Whenever repairs were completed, new faults were discovered. One night, while the foundations were being electronically monitored for vibrations, the floor fell in. Father Garrigan found the cathedral exposed from the sepulchre to the vaulted dome. There was a stream running directly through the building, bubbling up from between the broken flags. The cost of repair became prohibitive. The building was condemned and desanctified. The builders withdrew. The cathedral was abandoned.
With time, slates began to slide from the rafters and shatter on the rocks. Birds and bats roosted on the lip around the dome. A tapestry of moss explored the walls, creeping into alcoves where statues used to stand. The light shone green with algae, and the cathedral dreamed to the music of the stream. Everyone had gone.
Almost everyone had gone.
Louder than ever, now, Father Garrigan hears the voice of God. It echoes from the walls. It sounds like water, and it sounds like the wind. It sounds just a little like laughter.